Birthdays are always a cause for celebration, and even today - the day Dr. Jerry Falwell would have turned 75 - there was celebration.
As signs around the Montview Mansion on the Liberty University campus read, it was a celebration of the memories and the ongoing mission of “our pastor, our chancellor, our friend.”
The staff of Liberty and Thomas Road Baptist Church joined friends and family at the memorial garden where Falwell is buried, in front of the restored historic home that was once his office, for a brief dedicatory prayer service.
After an opening prayer by campus pastor Dwayne Carson, Falwell's sons, Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. and TRBC senior pastor Jonathan Falwell, spoke words of encouragement for the staff.
“We're just here to honor Dad with a short ceremony. We all miss him but we all think he'd be very happy to see what's happened here in the last year and a half,” Falwell Jr. said. “ … We all love Dad, we all miss him, but we all owe it to him to give it 100 percent. That's what he'd want us to do.”
Jonathan Falwell said this day was “emotional” for his family, but “emotional in the sense that we wish he was here, but we know, no doubt about it, he's in a far better place.”
He reminded people of the comments his Dad made weeks before his death, about trusting God that in the next five years the ministry would see “a greater and a more far-reaching impact in outreach than we had in the previous 50.”
“That is still happening today,” he said. “That mission is still going, and we are indeed seeing God doing greater things today than He ever has in our ministry. I think Dad would be the first one to say it's because this ministry was never about him; this ministry's always been about proclaiming the name, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He thanked the staff for their commitment “to do the exact same thing” and encouraged them to stay the course.
“As we continue to serve this great ministry, the church, the university, the [Liberty] Godparent Home, LCA, all together as one ministry … let us never allow this place for one minute, or for one second, to walk away from the mission and the passion of this man, because if we lost it, then there's no purpose in us continuing to do what we do.”
He said a dedicatory prayer and TRBC worship leader Charles Billingsley sang the “Lord's Prayer” to close the service.
And, as is required at all birthdays, cake was served on the back patio of the Montview Mansion. Guests were also invited to tour the mansion and view a new display about Falwell's life.
The Montview Mansion is open for tours to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call (434) 582-7678.